Vink victorious in Tour at last

Tour of Southland champion Michael Vink (centre) celebrates with runner-up Hamish Bond (left) and...
Tour of Southland champion Michael Vink (centre) celebrates with runner-up Hamish Bond (left) and third place-getter Sam Gaze. Photos: James Jubb/Studio Jubb
After nine attempts, and  being jilted twice at the altar, Michael Vink is finally a Tour of Southland champion.

It was third time lucky for the lanky Cantabrian after finishing runner-up in both 2016 and 2017, Vink clinging on to a 16sec lead during the final, frantic 77km stage from Winton to Invercargill on Saturday afternoon.

"I’m pinching myself. I’ve been close so many times and to finally finish it off in the way we did — defending the yellow jersey for three days," Vink said.

"We lost a guy after Bluff, which was unfortunate, so for five guys to defend it against such a quality field was fantastic."

Hamish Bond finished second overall,

Sam Gaze was third at 2min 59sec behind Vink, while defending champion James Piccoli had to settle for fourth  with a gap of 3min 22sec.

It was anything but a procession on the final day of the race, with Vink seeing an overnight lead of 1min 32sec decimated by a fantastic individual time trial by Bond in Winton.

Like Bond, Vink is a national time trial champion, and a four-time Winton time trial winner, but he could not stop a determined Bond from putting himself in a position to win the race.

Dylan Kennett wins the final stage.
Dylan Kennett wins the final stage.
"To be honest, a gap was a gap. All I had to do was follow Hamish’s wheel and if he had’ve gotten away he would have won the tour — it didn’t matter if it was 18sec or 2min," Vink said.

"I thought I had a really good time trial but Hamish was next level and full credit to him."

The final stage into Invercargill was won  by Dylan Kennett, who had been challenging for a stage win all week.

"I had to be patient. I had to take second in Te Anau, then Gore, then the TT, and third in the prologue. I was really hungry for it this afternoon," he  said.

Southland’s Matt Zenovich, a stage winner on Monday and tour leader for two days, completed a great week by claiming the Sprint Ace classification, while Paul Odlin was the race’s leading  rider over 35 and Kia Motors-Ascot Park Hotel won the teams classification.

It was a huge week for Vink’s WPC South-Joyride Apparel squad, teammate Ethan Batt picking up both the King of the Mountain and under-23 jerseys.

There will be little time for Vink to reflect on the win, with both the Tour of Tasmania and Pioneer mountain-bike race later this month, but now that he has finally won Southland,  he is determined to come back and defend the title.

"I’d love to come back and have more. I love this race.

"It’s a real event that the whole of Southland gets behind, which is what makes it so special."

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